Taking steps towards sustainability is a great way to enhance your company’s reputation in a socially-conscious marketplace, and doesn’t have to be complicated or costly – it can even save your business money.
1) Be Energy Efficient
2) Be Equipment Efficient
It is important to adequately maintain and repair business machinery. Running equipment that has not undergone routine maintenance or is in need of repair damages the machinery, wastes energy resources and may endanger your health and safety. In some circumstances, it may make sense to replace older assets with newer energy efficient equipment which can save your business money in the long term while preserving energy resources.
Consider donating older, serviceable equipment to nonprofits and educational programs rather than simply disposing of these items.
3) Be Water Efficient
Even more important than equipment efficiency is water efficiency. Did you know that a faucet that drips once per second can add up to nearly 8,000 litres of wasted water annually? Not only is that a massive drain (no pun intended) on our most precious natural resource, but it ends up costing you a ton of money!
Other ways to increase your water efficiency:
– Install faucet aerators to reduce your water consumption.
– Turn the temperature of your water heater down to the lowest level necessary to meet your business needs.
– Repair a running toilet (shockingly worse than a dripping faucet)
– Consider investing in low water volume toilets and motion sensor faucets for more water savings
4) Optimize the Three Rs
Many items we dispose of today can be recycled or reused rather than dumped in a landfill. Evaluate how your company uses paper, ink cartridges, metals, plastics, electronic equipment, and other company assets and identify ways in which you can trim or make more effective uses and reuses of these items.
Consider refilling ink cartridges instead of buying new ones.
Donate obsolete computers and peripherals to school or charities, and look into possible tax incentives to do so.
The creation of a company ‘Green Committee’ can be a useful tool to both identify areas of improvement in company sustainability, as well as to foster Employee Engagement.
5) Go Paperless (or as close to paperless as possible)
There are some amazing tools online for work sharing and collaboration, and beyond utilizing zero paper, (unless you want to go crazy and use all the extras) it is 100% FREE. Take Trello.com for example. This is a tool I use myself, all day, every day. Without getting into too much detail (just check it out, trust me), users have the ability to create lists, tasks, calendars, and share workflow details among team members, all on a web-based platform. They even have an exceptional mobile app, so you can access your ‘Boards’, as they’re called, from anywhere!
Here’s a sample Board I just created because I’m so excited to share this resource with you:
If you’re viewing meeting notes, presentations, or articles, read on screen instead of printing the document.
If you absolutely must print, which I understand is necessary at times, consider using a duplex printer and print on both sides of the paper, and widen your printing margins in document processing applications.
There are also services available that can provide custom software to digitize and automate your workflow. The least expensive of these options, which typically starts around $7,000, provides you with pre-built software, with customization geared towards your operations.
The most expensive (minimum $10,000), but also most effective option, is to have completely custom software designed for you specifically.
6) Rethink Packaging
If your business sells products, as opposed to services, examine your packaging carefully.
Could your packaging be more sustainable? This means packaging that has been manufactured from sustainable materials using energy from renewable sources. The packaging should remain safe and effective throughout its life cycle, after which its component materials should be fully recyclable, thus creating a closed loop of manufacturing and usage. Truly sustainable packaging, however, should still be able to meet the business market’s requirements in terms of cost, performance and safety.
Here’s a great video which explains the general components of sustainable packaging:
7) Rethink Purchasing
Source as many of the products you use to run your business from eco-friendly or sustainable sources. Most office supplies, including inks, furniture, and particularly paper, can be made from recycled or post-consumer content and are recyclable. There are hundreds of companies dedicated to offering these items to businesses, but this one I found to be the most comprehensive.
8) Evaluate Transportation Needs
In Canada, transportation accounts for approximately 31% of total energy use and 37% of greenhouse gas emissions (Energy Efficiency Trends in Canada, 1990 to 2010).
Businesses can help shrink energy consumption, lower travel expenses, and improve air quality through reductions in commuting and business-related travel.
Certain jobs may be effectively managed through full- or part-time telecommuting with employees working from home rather than driving to work. Employers might offer incentives to employees who utilize public transportation or form carpools for their daily commute, or you could even implement company transportation policies to simultaneously boost workplace morale while reducing harmful emissions.
Long-distance air and car travel and their incumbent expenses could be decreased through the use of teleconferencing.
For fleets and company cars, consider purchasing hybrids.
“Hybrid-electric vehicles combine a battery-powered electric motor with a conventional internal combustion engine. They offer the driving range and rapid refuelling of conventional vehicles, together with features of electric vehicles. Hybrids cannot be charged using external electricity – they use the gasoline engine, regenerative braking and the energy produced from coasting to recharge their batteries. Through increased fuel efficiency and reduced fuel use, hybrids can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
9) Stimulate Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement is integral to any successful business. If your employees aren’t engaged in your company’s brand, vision, and operational goals, you can’t expect them to be able to put forth their best effort for you. Many companies today have created Employee Engagement committees to better understand their employees, and oftentimes include lower-level employees in upper-level corporate decisions which fosters appreciation, recognition, and loyalty. You want your employees to be happy to work for you, for reasons other than compensation.
Encourage your Employee Engagement committee to start a ‘Green Committee’ and have representative employees from each department participate. This is an excellent way to enourage creativity among team members, and can also help you identify and establish corporate sustainability goals.
Incorporate sustainability initiatives into your existing employee engagement program by setting Carbon Footprint challenges. A carbon footprint is historically defined as “the total sets of greenhouse gas emissions caused by an organization, event, product or individual.”
You can provide employees with the tools to calculate their personal carbon footprint, and set reduction challenges and goals throughout the year. You can also set a company goal for the year by first determining your business carbon footprint and aiming to make improvements from there. Add incentives for employees to participate, but make them sustainability-themed.
10) Grow Green
Maybe you have potted or hanging plants scattered around your office, but have you ever considered growing an entire wall? Living green walls are panels of plants, grown vertically using hydroponics, on structures that can be either free-standing or attached to walls. Living green walls enhance a building’s visuals, improve air quality as well as employee alertness and energy levels.
The LEED program (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is an internationally recognized green building certification system to help convert the design, operation and construction of buildings into eco-friendly properties. The installation of living green walls can earn buildings LEED points which, in turn, helps to increase a property’s value by creating a favourable perception of a structure with an improved carbon footprint.
Living green walls are also natural air-filters, creating a cleaner, more invigorating work environment that will lead to better overall employee health and production. Officer workers are often exposed to air toxins in their environment such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, VOCs and benzene. Living green walls metabolize harmful toxins while releasing oxygen into the workplace air, much like office plants but on a much larger scale. This can also help alleviate sick building syndrome.
Interior and exterior living green walls function to cool the air in the warmer summer months through a process called evapotranspiration. The winter months see the added advantage of building insulation, thus reducing heating costs.
Finally, living green walls can provide a welcome reduction of noise levels in buildings. Plants have been used, throughout the world, to reduce noise along roads and highways. Living green walls expand on this concept as vegetation naturally blocks high frequency sounds while the supporting structure can help to diminish low frequency noise.
If you need assistance determining your sustainability challenges and goals, there are companies that provide Sustainability Consulting.
Do you have other ideas for making a more sustainable, green business? Share them in the comments or Tweet us at @SolutionsDaly.